What's Eating Gilbert Grissom?
Season 5
Number 6
Writer Sarah Goldfinger
Director Kenneth Fink
Original Airdate November 4, 2004
Previous Episode: Swap Meet
Next Episode: Formalities

What's Eating Gilbert Grissom? is the sixth episode in Season Five of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


While investigating a chopped-up body on the grounds of WLVU, the team finds out that they're dealing with the Blue Paint Killer again. The case gets confusing when the team finds out that the victim was male. Shortly after that, they find another body belonging to a female.


Victim: Johnny Avery Haywood III (deceased)

On the case: Entire team

During fraternity hell week at Western Las Vegas University (WLVU), a blindfolded pledge runs from the fraternity members. He trips and falls; when he stands up, his face is covered in maggots. Due to his reputation as a bug expert, Grissom is called to the scene, where he talks to the head of the school's department of agriculture. As he sifts through the dirt, he finds a tooth. Based on the number of maggots, Grissom guesses that there's at least 100 pounds of flesh buried, which is roughly the size of an average college student.

While curious onlookers gather behind the yellow tape, Grissom and Nick sift through the dirt and shovel up the maggots. Nick observes that there's no tissue and is informed that maggots can digest a body in just a few days. He also has a hard time believing that nobody would notice a corpse lying in the grass. The pieces of bones they're recovering are all uniform, and they're the same shape and size as the wood chips in the dirt. Grissom comes to a conclusion and is able to find a mulching machine being used on campus. He swabs the inside of the machine and finds evidence of human blood.

The tooth recovered was a porcelain crown, so there was no viable DNA to extract. Instead, Grissom cuts open one of the maggots to extract any flesh it ate. Elsewhere, Greg sifts through the dirt, maggots, and other debris recovered from the crime scene. He tells Catherine that, aside from dirt and maggots, he found shreds of black plastic from a garbage bag and something else with a sticky blue substance on it. Catherine recognizes the item as a fingernail; when she runs the fingernail for trace, the blue substance comes back as motor oil and blue paint—the same combination used by the "Blue Paint Killer."

Brass briefs the entire department on the Blue Paint Killer—starting in 1987, three women were killed on the campus of WLVU. John Mathers was caught and sentenced to death for the murder of the third victim, Charlene Roth. On the night of the execution, the body of Debbie Reston was found with a similar M.O. used. It was concluded that John Mathers was a copycat and that the original killer is still on the loose. The suspect's M.O. is to apply blue paint mixed with motor oil to a railing in order to prevent the paint from drying. The female victim will then use a nearby water fountain to wash the paint off. There, the suspect will sexually assault the victim then kill them via strangulation, leaving no semen behind at the scene. The body is then stuffed in black plastic trash bags and dumped in plain sight. Catherine adds that the suspect is likely a male at least 35 years of age that wears glasses and may drive a Chevy with a black interior.

Lab tech Mia Dickerson tells Grissom that the DNA extracted from the maggot belonged to a male victim. Meanwhile, while still sifting through the dirt, Greg finds two halves of a key with a fraternity symbol on them. Catherine and Nick visit the university's fraternity and are told that pledges swallow a key on the first night of hell week and "retrieve" it by the end of the week. When they ask if any pledges are missing, they're shown a photo of Jonathan Avery Haywood III, or "Johnny." Johnny has long blonde hair in his photo. The CSIs are told that Johnny has been missing since pledge week, and Nick asks for Johnny's hair brush and toothbrush. Just then, two pledges come in; as they put their hands in the air and recite a pledge, Nick notices that one of their hands has blue paint on it.

Catherine and Grissom find the railing the pledge touched, and Grissom questions why Nick didn't find it earlier when he was doing a campus sweep. Catherine replies that Nick was working from a schematic the campus security gave him; the railing isn't on it. The cement under the railing is fresh, leading Grissom to conclude that the Blue Paint Killer is now installing railings, as well as painting them. They spot a black trash bag under a nearby bench with blonde hair sticking out of it. When Grissom opens it, he finds a dummy. He exhaustingly tells Catherine that the killer knew they would find the dummy and is now taunting them.

In the lab, Catherine and Grissom open the trash bag and remove the dummy. Inside of the dummy's mouth, they find a folded up note and a blonde hair with it; the note reads "I HAVE HER." Catherine notes that the killer likes to plant hairs as part of his signature, remembering that Janet Kent's (the first victim) hair was found on the body of Debbie Reston. It's soon confirmed that the hair on the note was Debbie's. When Grissom processes the note, he finds a drawing of a bound and gagged woman in the background. The drawing contains some furniture in the foreground and backwards lettering in the upper corner. Catherine mentions that previous evidence indicated that the suspect was an artist. Based on the angles of the drawing, she guesses that the killer was seated in the front seat of the van and drew the victim while she was tied up in the back. Grissom wonders aloud if the killer couldn't look his victim (or victims) directly in the eye. Warrick notes that the black trilobal fibers found on Debbie Reston's body were from a Chevy and that the size and shape of the windows in the drawing are consistent with a Chevy van. As the team looks over the drawing further, Nick realizes that the letters in the background are from a sign for The Erotica Boutique.

In the parking lot of the shop, they find a white Chevy van. The back doors are opened to reveal a dead female with the smell of decomp emanating from the body. There's an air pump on the floor that was likely used to inflate the dummy and beer bottles, which Catherine guesses were used to rape the victim. This explains why semen was never left behind at any of the scenes. Grissom talks to the clerk inside the shop, who tells him that all transactions are cash only (no credit card receipts) and that there are no security cameras. As he peruses the store, Grissom finds a comic book in the magazine rack with a drawing style similar to the one they recovered from the paper. The clerk identifies the artist as "Zippy Tee" and confirms that he traded the artwork for one of the sex dolls. He has no information on Zippy, but tells Grissom that Zippy is a white guy that looks to be in his 40's, has brown hair, and is a little shorter than Grissom.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins tells Catherine that the victim, still a Jane Doe, has all of the tell-tale signs of being a victim of the Blue Paint Killer—blue paint on the hand, evidence of sexual assault, and ligature marks around the neck. Catherine notices the victim's blonde hair and brings up a photo of Johnny Haywood in the database; the two victims have similar long blonde hair. This leads Catherine to believe that the killer was targeting this specific female and that Johnny's murder was a mistake. The previous theory of the killer choosing his victims at random is debunked; it's clear that he's been targeting specific women.

The female victim is identified as Kaitlin Rackish, a student at the university. Catherine talks to Kaitlin's roommate, Mandy Cooper, and asks her to recount the last day the two spent together. Mandy reveals that the two were taking a class called "Introduction to the Female Form" with professor Cody Lewis, who just happens to be one of the main suspects the team was looking at in the past. Brass interrogates Cody and shows him the comic book cover from The Erotica Boutique, but Cody says that the drawing isn't his and that the artist has no technique. Cody tells Brass that he has come to the station voluntarily, but Brass lays out the details—Cody used to have a Chevy van, he dated the first victim, his return to campus coincided with the fourth murder, and Kaitlin was in his evening classes. Despite all of this evidence, Cody denies any involvement in the murders. He also tells Brass that no matter how much he denies his involvement, it seems that everyone has made up their minds already and labeled him a serial killer.

Greg and Nick process the van from the boutique parking lot. Inside, they find a WLVU parking pass from 1986 and a pair of busted eyeglasses. Nick notes that evidence indicates that Debbie Reston broke the killer's glasses two years prior. They look further and find that the VIN number has been scratched off and the vehicle's registration is expired. Nick also sees that the registration sticker is a fake. Inside the back of the van, Greg finds something that looks like fingerprint powder under the carpet. Meanwhile, lab tech Jacqui Franco tells Sara that the prints lifted from the dashboard and rearview mirror of the van match the partial print that was lifted from the trash bag Debbie Reston was found in two years ago. Elsewhere, Catherine and Warrick compare the lives of the five victims and find that none of them had one single thing in common (where they ate, classes they took, etc.).

Sara studies the comic book pages frame by frame and takes down meticulous notes on what she sees. Nick brings Grissom up to speed on their findings from the van—dead license plates, a tampered VIN number, and counterfeit registration stickers. However, he finds out that the parking pass from 1986 belonged to John Mathers. The partial VIN number found is also a match to John; someone has been driving his old van. Nick tells Grissom that he doesn't think they're looking at a killer and a copycat; instead, they're looking at partners in crime.

Nick watches an interview with John Mathers conducted a week before he was executed. He tells Catherine that John was in prison for 15 years and that his only visitor was his lawyer. Nothing in the file shows John in communication with his partner at any time. Sara enters and informs them that the fingerprint recovered from the binding of the comic book was a match to the van and the garbage bag Debbie Reston was found in. After analyzing the drawings from the comic book, Sara determined that the artist is a dominant, dissociative sexual sadist. Nick adds that the prison psychiatrist diagnosed John as a psychopath with a dependent personality disorder. John may have been predisposed to violent crimes but he may have needed some encouragement. When Grissom points out that John would need to work with someone he could control, Catherine wonders if John was the submissive in the partnership and his partner was the dominant. John's pubic hair was found on Debbie Reston's body, and it's confirmed that a vaginal contribution was found on the necks of the beer bottles recovered from the van. Therefore, it's possible John was working as the killer's "surrogate." They all wonder why there was one murder on the night before John's execution and another on the two-year anniversary of the execution, but not one a year before. David Hodges interrupts and says that the black powder found in the van is ink made exclusively for commercial copy machines. A light bulb goes off in Catherine's head and she's able to trace three different victims to the campus copy union.

Brass finds out that one of the employees of the copy union, Kevin Greer, fits the killer's profile and has been working there for more than ten years. Inside the copy union, an employee tells Brass that Kevin just left work. Catherine finds black powder in a black trash bag and the employee tells her that Kevin uses the nearby binding machine to bind his comic books. The police get a warrant to search Kevin's house; inside the dimly lit residence are some pictures of women and a paint mixer. Catherine deduces that Kevin mixed his own paint so that the lab couldn't trace its point of purchase. Just then, the phone rings and the answering machine picks up. Kevin is on the other end of the line, and he commends the police for a job well done. He adds that he'll wait for them at the police station while they look around his house.

In the station interrogation room, Kevin sits and waits with his sketch pad; he's a skinny white male with a mustache and yellowing teeth. Grissom and Brass enter, and Kevin greets each of them by their first names. He tells them that his rule was that if the police were able to make it to his house, they deserved to meet him in person. Kevin brags about his murders and says that he would gradually strangle his victims instead of doing it in one shot. Grissom asks him where his glasses are and Kevin replies that after Debbie broke them, he got LASIK surgery. However, the surgery didn't take, which resulted in poor night vision. This explains why he missed the one year anniversary of John Mathers' execution and why he mistook Johnny for Kaitlin. He tells Brass that he tried to talk John out of killing Charlene Roth, but couldn't. John was caught and sent to prison; Kevin admits that he could never find a solid replacement for him. Kevin continues to draw in his sketch pad during the entire interrogation.

Meanwhile, in Kevin's garage, Catherine and Sara find a freezer with drawings of the victims and some locks of their hair in plastic bags. However, there are six victims listed. One of the victims, Brit Mosscoe, is one they haven't accounted for yet. Catherine fills Grissom in on the findings. With this information, Grissom asks Kevin where Brit Mosscoe is. Kevin replies that he can take the police to her, but they'll need a full tank of gas to get there. As they get ready to leave the station, Kevin asks to use the bathroom. Meanwhile, back in Kevin's garage, Sara learns that WLVU never had a student named Brit Mosscoe. She looks at Brit's drawing and sees a calendar on the wall with a photo that looks similar to the drawing. The woman in the calendar photo is identified as Miss October, and Sara is able to eventually figure out that Brit Mosscoe is an anagram for Miss October. She frantically calls Catherine with this information, and Catherine passes it along to Grissom. Grissom wonders where Kevin is taking them if Brit Mosscoe doesn't exist.

They go to the bathroom and open the stall Kevin was in. He's lying on the floor of the stall with a black plastic trash bag around his head. Grissom tries to give him CPR, but Kevin has killed himself via suffocation. After the ordeal, Grissom walks back to the interrogation room and looks at Kevin's sketch pad. Kevin has drawn an image of Grissom with various images of himself being tortured and scared in the reflection of Grissom's glasses. Grissom turns the drawing on its side and sees smaller images of the victims in similar states of terror. He then turns the drawing back around and tri-folds it to reveal a larger drawing of himself. In the image of the glasses, there's a man with the final words coming out of his mouth: GOOD BYE. Grissom looks at the drawing in shock.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

  • Wallace Langham as David Hodges
  • Aisha Tyler as Mia Dickerson
  • Romy Rosemont as Jacqui Franco
  • Larry Sullivan as Officer Akers
  • Ty Upshaw as Officer T. Brantley
  • Taylor Nichols as Kevin Greer
  • Victor Bevine as John Mathers
  • David Lee Smith as Cody Lewis
  • Summer Glau as Mandy Cooper
  • Harriet Sansom Harris as Eva
  • Corey Stoll as Sex Shop Clerk
  • Wayne Duvall as Walter Beerly
  • Ron Perkins as Dean
  • Patrick Levis as Roger
  • April Bowlby as Kaitlin Rackish
  • Max Van Ville as Johnny Avery Blake

Episode Title[]

  • The title of the episode is a reference to the 1993 film What's eating Gilbert Grape?


  • The episode is a follow-up to Season 3's The Execution of Catherine Willows.
  • According to IMDb, the male victim in the episode is named Johnny Avery Blake. However, when Catherine and Nick question a frat boy, the kid refers to "Johnny" as Jonathan Avery Haywood III.


  • Summer Glau played Mandy Cooper. She would later become more well-known for playing Cameron Phillips in the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles TV show.
  • David Lee Smith, who played Cody Lewis, also played IAB Sergeant Rick Stetler in CSI: Miami.
  • April Bowlby played Kaitlin Rackish, but is perhaps most recognizable for her role as Kandi in Two and a Half Men. She also had a bit part in the Season 10 episode Unshockable as a groupie for the band Rascal Flatts.

See Also[]

CSI:Las Vegas Season 5
Viva Las VegasDown the DrainHarvestCrow's FeetSwap MeetWhat's Eating Gilbert Grissom?FormalitiesCh-Ch-ChangesMea CulpaNo Humans InvolvedWho Shot Sherlock?SnakesNesting DollsUnbearableKing BabyBig MiddleCompulsionSpark of Life4 x 4Hollywood BrassCommittedWeeping WillowsIcedGrave Danger, Part 1Grave Danger, Part 2